McFeely: With great nickname and numbers, Samford's Hodges at top of FCS

FARGO - Devlin Hodges has one of the great nicknames in modern sports. The Samford University quarterback is called "Duck" by just about everybody who knows him, and even many who don't.
Samford quarterback Devlin Hodges (8) looks for a receiver during this season's game at Florida State. Glenn Beil / USA TODAY Sports

FARGO - Devlin Hodges has one of the great nicknames in modern sports. The Samford University quarterback is called "Duck" by just about everybody who knows him, and even many who don't.

The nickname was given to him by his coach at Samford, Chris Hatcher, during Hodges' redshirt freshman year. Most assume it was because Hodges is a crack duck-caller, having won the 2009 world junior championship as a 13-year-old. Hodges also loves to hunt ducks.

Not so fast, my friends.

"There's another reason Coach calls me 'Duck.' He's the one who started it at first and it caught on," Hodges said. "Everyone thinks that Coach calls me 'Duck' and everyone calls me 'Duck' because of duck-calling. ... The real reason, I'm going to keep between me and Coach. I don't want anyone else to know that."

And no, Hodges says, it's not because he threw a "duck" - slang for a poor, wobbly pass - on the football field.

That occurence is quite unlikely anyway. Hodges is one of the best quarterbacks in NCAA Division I FCS and hopes to lead the ninth-ranked Bulldogs deep into the playoffs, while keeping an eye on a bunch of national FCS and Southern Conference records that are within reach.

How many people know about his pursuits is an interesting question. Samford is located in Homewood, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham, and the small private Baptist school gets little attention in the land of 'Bama and Auburn. Hodges comes from Kimberly, Ala., about 30 minutes away from Homewood.

Hodges, for example, could break the all-time FCS record for passing yards. It's held by former Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair, who threw for 14,496 yards for Alcorn State from 1991-94. Hodges sits at 11,106 yards after Samford's 1-1 start. With nine regular-season games remaining, Hodges would have to average about 375 yards a game to catch McNair. There's also the possibility of playoff games.

It's a longshot given the Southern Conference has option teams like Wofford and Furman that will try to control the ball, but Hodges is averaging more than 400 yards a game after a win over Shorter and a loss to Florida State.

"Here's what I tell people: Who wouldn't want to be the all-time FCS passing leader? It's definitely something I want to break. Is it my No. 1 goal? No. My No. 1 goal is to be the best I can for this team so that we can win the Southern Conference and make a run in the playoffs. I think if we win the Southern Conference and make a run in the playoffs, the records will take care of themselves," Hodges said. "One of the coolest things I've heard is that my center, Nate Lee, said, 'I want you to break the record because I want to be the center for the all-time passing leader.' When he said that, it struck me because I knew my teammates were behind me. It also made me feel like they knew I wanted to, but that it wasn't my No. 1 goal."

Hodges' only national attention came when The Athletic website did a lengthy article in August, detailing his duck-calling expertise and football exploits. But the Bulldogs' 36-26 loss at Florida State last weekend opened some eyes, too.

Hodges was mostly magnificent against the Seminoles, showing a strong arm, mobility and accuracy. He finished 39 of 60 for 475 yards and two touchdowns. That was offset somewhat by four interceptions, but Hodges made a point against the big boys.

He can play a little bit.

The Bulldogs, picked to win the conference, also showed well.

"Yeah, we came up short, but I think we got a lot of confidence coming from this game. This week in practice I think we've been good about not being too confidence in ourselves, but also not being too down that we lost the football game. I like where we're at after this game," Hodges said. "It's awesome Samford got some good recognition from this game. A lot of people know who Samford is now. I think we made a statement that we're a really good football team."

Hodges remains a top-flight duck-caller. In July, despite entering at the last minute, Hodges won the Alabama state calling championship. That qualifies him for the world championships this fall in Stuttgart, Ark., where he won the junior world championship.

There might be a conflict. The duck-calling championship is Nov. 24. That's the same date as the first round of the FCS playoffs. If Samford qualifies for the postseason, but doesn't get a top eight seed, it will be playing that day.

Hodges knows there will be time for duck-calling when his football career is finished, whether that's after Samford's last game or following a professional opportunity. Duck-calling, he said, is nothing like football because he doesn't need to constantly prepare.

"When I won the state duck calling contest, I didn't know about the contest until two days before and I just kind of picked up my duck call and won," he said. "You do have to practice, but for duck-calling I kind of feel it's like riding a bike. Even though you might not do it for a long time, you're always going to remember."

With a nickname like "Duck" and a shot at a slew of records, the folks around Samford are going to remember Hodges, too.

 

Conference records

Pass Attempts

Record: 1,779, Scott Riddle, Elon, 2007-10

Hodges: 1,442

Pass Completions

Record: 1,168, Scott Riddle, Elon, 2007-10

Hodges: 986

Passing Yards

Record: 13,264, Scott Riddle, Elon, 2007-10

Hodges: 11,106

Total Offense

Record: 14,753, Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State, 2006-09

Hodges: 11,836

FCS records

Pass Attempts

Record: 1,893, Jeremy Moses, Stephen F. Austin, 2007-10

Hodges: 1,442

Pass Completions

Record: 1,184, Jeremy Moses, Stephen F. Austin, 2007-10

Hodges: 986

Passing Yards

Record: 14,496, Steve McNair, Alcorn State, 1991-94

Hodges: 11,106

Total Offense

Record: 16,823, Steve McNair, Alcorn State, 1991-94

Hodges: 11,836